The Great Plains Theatre in Abilene, Kansas burned to the ground on Wednesday, July 23, destroying one of the community's local landmarks and most historical buildings. Originally erected in 1882 as a Presbyterian church, the building has served for the past 20 years as a venue for movies and live performances. Rose Rozmiarek, chief investigator with the Kansas State Fire Marshal Office, has said the cause of the theater fire will officially be ruled as undetermined, though a nearby lightning strike has been named a possible cause.
Maggie Hoffman, the Great Plains Theatre's executive director, had been on the job for only two months when the fire occurred.
"Everyone knows we had financial difficulty in the past," Hoffman commented in the aftermath of the fire. "We were getting on track, and things were going really well. I even made a comment: 'Guys, I think we are really making progress.' Our assistant director knocked on wood."
The company was in the middle of its preparations for the third production of its 20th anniversary season, Always…Patsy Cline, when the fire engulfed the building. Performances, however, will still begin as planned on August 8 at the Abilene High School Auditorium, the community's temporary alternative home until funds can be raised to build a new theater. According to Hoffman, the company plans to relocate in Abilene.